Administrative Assistants Coping with Conflicting Priorities

An Administrative Assistant’s Guide to Coping With Conflicting Priorities

One of the biggest issues executive assistants consistently report is ineffective time management. Let’s face it: your days are chaotic. Administrative professionals are notoriously over-worked. It can often feel like there’s “too much to do and not enough time.” Executive assistant tools and resources can feel limited. Even the most dedicated administrative professional can fall victim to everyday productivity pains like procrastination, unrealistic deadlines, unwanted distractions, and lack of organization. You’re pulled in a million different directions, sometimes with multiple leaders to support. Deadlines press down on you, distractions steal valuable time, and there never seems to be quite enough hours in the day to get it all done.

It’s critical to take control of your workload and learn to effectively implement strategies that maximize your day!

Managing Competing Priorities When Everything is Important

“There is no way I can get it all done!”

I’ve heard this before, and I understand how you feel. The executive assistant daily checklist can be long and overwhelming. In fact, you may feel so overwhelmed that it stops you in your tracks. It creates paralysis because there’s just so much to do it prevents you from accomplishing anything at all. Don’t let that happen!

While it’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed with all the tasks assigned to you, the most effective way to manage massive to-do lists is to prioritize them. Prioritizing means using your strategic thinking, long-range vision, and intimate knowledge of your leader’s priorities and objectives to determine which tasks are most important at each moment. Give those tasks more of your attention, energy, and time.

Prioritizing is about making choices. To prioritize effectively, you need to be able to recognize what is important, as well as see the difference between urgent and important.

Let’s face it: If you’re a busy assistant (like so many of us are), there will be days where you simply can’t get it all done. Managing conflicting priorities is a reality of our industry. When those days happen, it can feel awful. Failing to prioritize all your projects and tasks can result in:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Overlooked assignments
  • Increased stress
  • Diminished productivity
  • Growing frustrations
  • A feeling of failure
  • Fractures between you and your executive

Executive Assistant Best Practices

So how do you learn to demonstrate both resilience and an ability to manage multiple and conflicting priorities? Employing some executive assistant best practices and insider tips and tricks will go a long way in helping you become the master of your day.

The first thing you need to do is identify all the tasks you need to complete and put them on a list. I call this your, “Master List”. Always keep your Master List up to date. It will be constantly changing. You’ll accomplish tasks and mark items off the list, and you’ll also be assigned new tasks. Your Master List will serve as your go-to guide on what needs to get done!

Once you’ve established your Master List, start thinking about how it should be organized. Here are some of the easiest tips for prioritizing projects and tasks on your Master List:

  • Focus on high-value activities.
  • Focus on and finish all the important, urgent tasks. (These are the ones that would have a major negative impact if you did not get them done.)
  • Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What will be the result if I do not get this done today?”
  • Ask for specific deadlines. Don’t accept “ASAP” as a deadline.
  • If you support multiple leaders and feel conflicted as to what takes precedence, ask the group to decide the order and then tell you.
  • Early in the day, clarify the top three items that must be accomplished that day.
  • Establish huddles with your leaders so you can discuss the day or week’s priorities.
  • Make deadlines public information! Inform all members you support through a status update sheet or form.

As you begin to use these time management methods to better organize your day, you should also take the time to think about how YOU work best. Being more aware of your habits will also help you structure your day. I recommend working on your most complex projects and tasks during your most productive time of day. For some, that may be early morning and others may be most productive in the afternoon. Whatever your sweet spot is, ensure that your daily tasks are structured in such a way that you reserve simple, mundane tasks for your less productive times and the more complex, pressing projects for your most productive times.

Once you’ve implemented the recommendations above, you can put in place another airtight system that will help you prioritize your day. I’ve developed a simple method to help you do this quickly and efficiently. Try assigning each task on your Master List an A, B, or C priority based on the following formula:

  1. An “A” priority is a task that is extremely important. These items need to be completed in the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
  2. A “B” priority is a task that is moderately important. These items need to be completed within three to four days.
  3. A “C” priority is a task that is not important or pressing. These items need to be completed in the next three to four weeks (or longer).

The best practice is to establish your coding system WITH your leader. They too should understand what an A, B, and C priority mean. That will make it easier for them when they are assigning tasks to you and will help ensure that you’re both on the same page and working together towards a common goal! The more closely you’re willing to work with your leaders, the more impressed they’ll be with your organization and communication.

Next, before you start your workday, identify your top five priorities. Keep your daily list to these top five items to avoid becoming overwhelmed. This will help you feel like you have control over your day instead of feeling like you are being controlled. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by the larger (and less critical) Master List. If you stay focused and mark items off your list, at the end of the day, you will feel good about your accomplishments!

As the day continues, you’ll also need to reserve time to reassess. Remember to be flexible and understand that sometimes you can’t get to every task every day. Guess what? That’s ok! Think to yourself, “If I have to leave in an hour, what do I absolutely need to get done?” This will help you stay focused on what’s most important and not let all the other tasks mire you in madness.

Of course, these categories can shift as the day passes and business fluctuates (especially the A’s and B’s). When you set priorities for items on your to-do lists, keep asking yourself if any of your tasks can be eliminated or delegated. When unexpected opportunities or activities come your way, you may need to make a quick judgment for prioritization. Trust your gut instinct and retain clarity on what really needs to be done that day.

If your priorities have a sudden shift in the day, simply stop work on your current task (think of it like pressing the pause button) and start work on your new priority. Focus on that priority until that task is done. Then you can easily transition back to your original task (press play again). Work smarter. It’s not about spinning your wheels frantically. It’s about being productive! It is not about getting faster. It’s about putting your energies where they are most needed when they are most needed. It’s the reason why you must learn your leader and know the business so that you can put those factors into play when you are prioritizing.

By putting into place these methods for effective prioritization, you’ll find that your days are transformed. You’ll likely be accomplishing more and producing a higher quality level of work. Why? Because you have taken control of your day!

Mastering prioritization is a key element for any administrative assistant’s professional growth. Our Get Things Done & Control Your Day – Recorded Webinar provides the practical tools needed to stay on top of your ever-increasing to-do list and leave the office each day with a sense of true accomplishment and peace of mind.

READ SIMILAR POSTS

Like this article? Share it!

Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

130 thoughts on “An Administrative Assistant’s Guide to Coping With Conflicting Priorities”

  1. Great timing to read this article. I’ve been feeling lately that I have no control and have completely put aside my A-B-C method! thanks for the reminder 😉

  2. Great tips; sounds like any emergency room triage process. Sometimes making a list is a luxury time doesn’t allow, and there are always additional things that come up each day that require you to put the list aside – but it’s still good to at least have a plan (and a back-up). I find sometimes I have to work a few small, urgent but manageable tasks in between to feel like I’ve accomplished something.
    Best you can do is figure out what the executives are focusing on and try to keep your priorities aligned. I like the OneNote recommendations; something I’ve never tried and would like to see a sample of. Great article and, as always, great collaboration among fellow EA’s. Thanks everyone!

  3. Sometimes I feel like I can read and get all sorts of great information, but the information and BKM’s are of no use if the support you are giving is always one-sided. It’s a real struggle. It sucks because the only other option is to find another job… which means, you are giving up something you really enjoy (a company you really love) because of one manager. I don’t see the fairness in that.

  4. I have been an Executive Assistant for 10 years. I have worked in various industries from manufacturing to hospitality and in the financial sectors. While the industries have been quite different from each other, my role as well as aspects around being an EA remained the same. The pressure to complete assignments with competing priorities/deadlines has never changed irregardless of the industry. However, throughout my career I have learnt that planning and organizing my work schedule is key to getting things done without feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. Also I have mastered the art of staying calm in stressful situations, to avoid doing my tasks under excessive pressure, which normally would lead to poor work quality.

  5. Great pointers! I typically work on projects with a notebook / sticky notes and check off as I go along. I have ADHD. Not one day is ever the same for me. I have to make sure I’m not distracted and if by chance I am, I can always rely on my notes to make sure I have done what is needed. I LOVE your webinars as it always helps me improve in one way shape or form. Thank you!

  6. I like this and I use my master list on a Trello Board and prioritise them there.
    This helps me not to lose anything or let it fall through the cracks.

  7. Prioritisation can be hard, but once you get the hang of it it’s definitely worth it. And having clear deadlines is very important so you know how to best prioritise.

  8. I use a similar method in a bullet journal format. I really like the reminder to set a certain deadline, not ASAP. and to think about what the consequence will be if something doesn’t get done today. Great blog. Thank you

  9. Great article! There are many ways to tackle conflicting priorities… In the day, I used to use a physical planner and to-do lists. Today we are in a technical world and there are so many apps and mechanisms to use, finding the one that works for you is most important. I take emails and turn them into tasks so that all the information is right there without double working… sticky notes are my friend, reminders, slack pinning posts for later review, etc. Again, need to do what works for you – not everyone is the same and we all task differently.

  10. Brandy Bolianatz

    I’ve been using the “Master List” method (the old school pen and paper way) for years but will definitely be experimenting with the A, B, C priority method. I am also going to make note of the prioritizing tips to incorporate into my priority decision-making. Thank you!

  11. Thank you for writing this article. i like having the executive perspective. I have used a Master List in the past and this is a great tool – like a “brain dump”. The Master List can also become overwhelming – using the ABC method will be helpful to keep my focus. I use a colored highlighter (green – my favorite color) to “check off” completed items – the more green I see the more accomplished I feel!

  12. Very informative article. I will use the Master List to help increase my effectiveness on tasks and projects
    – Focus on high-value activities.
    Focus on and finish all the important, urgent tasks. (These are the ones that would have a major negative impact if you did not get them done.)
    Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What will be the result if I do not get this done today?”
    Ask for specific deadlines. Don’t accept “ASAP” as a deadline.
    If you support multiple leaders and feel conflicted as to what takes precedence, ask the group to decide the order and then tell you.
    Early in the day, clarify the top three items that must be accomplished that day.
    Establish huddles with your leaders so you can discuss the day or week’s priorities.
    Make deadlines public information! Inform all members you support through a status update sheet or form.
    Thank you so much for this blog. Cheers, Suzanne

  13. I love the Master List idea with the priorities group. Supporting multiple executives you have to manage the activities on your plate without being influenced or ignoring by their priorities. The specif deadlines are also another key, Assistants need to be confident negotiating deadlines! It is a fantastic way to not get overwhelming or saying no at the first.

  14. Savanna Cunningham

    I always have a to do list and move items to the top of the list if I did not complete them the day before but I like the A,B,C method. I love all the new information and resources Office Dynamics have to offer that are also FREE!

  15. Savanna Cunningham

    This was very interesting! I always have had a to do list and carry items over to the next day if they weren’t completed the day before but I like the A,B,C, method. Love all the information and resources Office Dynamics provide at no cost.

  16. I have believed in making lists of my tasks daily and marking them based on their importance. This article validates that and is really helpful as well!

  17. The line “Prioritizing means using your strategic thinking, long-range vision, and intimate knowledge of your leader’s priorities and objectives to determine which tasks are most important at each moment.” rings home with me. Prioritizing may not be easy. I realize that I must consider tasks from many angles.

  18. This was a great article, especially since the start of COIVD it has helped to really focus on those A, B and C priorities. Also, these jam-packed reminder resources to help keep us Admin on a roll. 🙂 Thank-you!!

  19. Finding my top 3 for the day is a great idea. I usually try to list them in order by importance, but narrowing it down to three seems a little more manageable. Then when done with those three I can work on the next three. I like the ABC concept because I already do it, the three breaks it down even more which is what my brain needs!

  20. This is an excellent resource! Critical to this time, in particular, where we are distanced and working primarily virtually, when we’re accustomed to working ‘in person’ with our Executives. I do keep a Master List, but I will implement the ABC system and see whether that improves our system at all! Thanks for the terrific information!

  21. I put together a “master list” in excel. I can add items and filter in order of importance as necessary. It is also mentally stimulating to have an on-going list and marking items as complete. Completed items can be hid, but can also be re-accessed if needed.

  22. I love the idea of a priority list. I work for a non-public school for students who are not successful within their own district school and who need a little extra help. There are days that I am super busy, and this is when I employ my priority list. Using an “A, B, C” list helps to break down what needs to be done, when – which helps to elevate some unnecessary stress!

    Love this article!

  23. I love being reminded of the simplicity of the above. The longer you have know and follow her practices the more well rounded and strategic you become. I have noticed over the past year I have slowly transitioned away from some of these activities that used to be so ingrained in me. This article is a good reminder and a good boost to start again and begin with what I know and focus on it. Thank you Joan and team for the eloquent reminder and always coming back and finding new ways to remind us of our best practices and ways to restart them.

  24. I love the tips for prioritizing projects and tasks on a Master List. All the information is applicable, practical and very time saving!

  25. This is very helpful! I have a list of 100 to-do’s every single day and implementing what I’ve learned from this article will help me be successful in prioritizing all of those to-do’s.

  26. Stacey Roberts, CWCA, CAP, OM

    I use the A, B, C approach in a slightly different way. I have Red, Yellow, Green categories on my tasks in Outlook so that my “reds” are always at the top of the list, then numbered by priority. The days I get to a green item I feel like doing a celebratory dance!

  27. I’ve always been a list maker…empowering when you can cross something off. I also use this list for my goals/accomplishments. Makes it easy to look back and reference things you’ve done that you may have forgotten about.

  28. Great article! I will be sharing this with my admin team!
    I use One Note as a few others have stated. Then I share it with my manager / Chief of Staff in our 2:1 weekly. Helps us to go through the week and prioritize everything and gives me a clear list of what I need to get done asap!

  29. I love the questions “What will be the result if I do not get this done today?” and “If I have to leave in an hour, what do I absolutely need to get done?” These questions help focus my thinking and can quickly illuminate priorities.

  30. The most important take away for me personally was : ‘”Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What will be the result if I do not get this done today?”’. I am the type that needs to know what the end result will be before I can start working and the procrastination can build… this simple question will definitely help me stay on top of my priorities.

  31. Great article! I’ve been using Master Lists for a while now using a similar methodology as the ABC method. I’ve found the biggest issue is getting buy in to this as things are always popping up during the day being “extremely important”. What I’ve learnt to do is create a virtual A task for these last minute things that somehow were never thought of before.

  32. I love the A,B or C categories as it helps me mentally keep everything in neat “buckets.” I also love the idea of sharing this with my executives so they are alignment of what my thought process is, a sense of my workload and clear communication. Thank you Joan!

  33. I love the idea of A, B and C priorities. Exercising assertiveness is also helpful when managing expectations with conflicting priorities.

  34. Having multiple people to answer to can be a source of conflict. This is a great article to help with approaches to resolve issues.

  35. Great article. The one thing that caught my eye was to make deadlines public information! Inform all members you support through a status update sheet or form. This allows everyone to be on the same page. Thank you.

  36. This was a great article! I have always been one to write things down and a to-do list person. Joan’s suggestion — “The best practice is to establish your coding system WITH your leader. They, too, should understand what an A, B, and C priority mean. That will make it easier for them when they assign tasks to you and help ensure that you’re both on the same page and working together towards a common goal! The more closely you’re willing to work with your leaders, the more impressed they’ll be with your organization and communication.” The idea of using a tracking system to track the tasks for year-end review was helpful too.

  37. This was a great article! I have always been one to write things down and a to-do list person. Joan’s suggestion — “The best practice is to establish your coding system WITH your leader. They, too, should understand what an A, B, and C priority mean. That will make it easier for them when they assign tasks to you and help ensure that you’re both on the same page and working together towards a common goal! The more closely you’re willing to work with your leaders, the more impressed they’ll be with your organization and communication.” The idea of using a tracking system to track the tasks for year-end review was helpful too.

  38. This was a great article! I have always been a person to write things down and make to-do lists. I like Joan’s approach to having the Master List and then prioritizing A, B, and C. Joan’s suggestion — “The best practice is to establish your coding system WITH your leader. They, too, should understand what an A, B, and C priority mean. That will make it easier for them when they assign tasks to you and help ensure that you’re both on the same page and working together towards a common goal! The more closely you’re willing to work with your leaders, the more impressed they’ll be with your organization and communication.” Jana’s idea of a Trello board or some tracking system to allow yourself to work through all of the master list items and daily tasks, especially the critical ones for reference at year-end reviews, was beneficial too.

  39. Great article “Mastering prioritization is a key element for any administrative assistant’s professional growth” so true!

  40. Sheila Goolcharan

    I’m definitely a list maker but also very attached to task completion dates via my inbox as a simple reminder system.

  41. Billi Ferrell DiNapoli

    I had to learn to prioritize, which began with, what is today’s issue? If it does not affect today it goes lower on the list. Long-term projects get a slice of time per day, usually during the quietest part of the day. Hair on fire, to do’s are worked on immediately, these often come about by people handing me things that are last minute on their part, or because a client blew up a schedule. They are done immediately, and if I have to switch between two or more such, I do. Often that is because I need information to complete an item, so, while I wait for that, I move to the next items and so on.

    Each morning, and evening I go through the schedules/calendars of my executives. I make sure there are no conflicts, and if there are…yes it happens, precisely how they wish them handled. Conflicts arise, again, because outside or client companies need a switch of schedule, and the juggling begins. All in all, it’s about balance. Calendars, expenses, travel and projects.

  42. Prioritization and reprioritization are key to any successful assistant! You can start your day out with an entire list of things to accomplish and this list can change in a heartbeat. I like to start each day with a new list. I feel like I have accomplished tasks by checking items off of my list.

  43. Loved the article. It addressed some realistic everyday issues. I’m the person who likes to get things done immediately and I have to learn how to focus on one thing at a time. I have a bad habit while working one thing, I will stop to help someone else. This messes up my priority lists now.

  44. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was the only assistant in my dept. and I was being pulled in many directions. I had to use some of these tips in order to get things done. I had to prioritize, saying no to some tasks and delegate it to someone else, and tell staff a deadline date and time.

  45. A best practice I use with my Executive is color coding the calendar – this helps me prioritize meetings that may need to be moved or cancelled.

  46. Love the idea of A, B and C priorities. Also this re-frame to “interruptions”: It’s about putting your energies where they are most needed when they are most needed, then pushing pause on what you were doing, completing the priority, and resuming the original task once it’s done. Thanks!

  47. Working for two (2) team leaders can be very demanding. You have to deal with two (2) different personality’s and leadership styles. I think that prioritizing tasks is key. The Executive Assistant Best Practices listed are awesome the list is going to help make me more efficient and productive.
    Awesome Blog!

  48. Very helpful article! The A, B, C priority categories show that not all tasks can fall under ‘A’, some have to be moved to B or C. 🙂

  49. Christi Palmore

    WOW, this was great information. Especially the tips about priority you task A,B, and C. Learning our leaders are so important. Who cannot relate to pulling in so many different directions with various leaders? Love this! Thank you.

  50. Great reminder especially when we are getting into the year and trying to keep up with goals. I have been trying to have 3 prioritized tasks to complete each day, but I often allow others emergencies to override my priorities. Still working on it though.

  51. Prioritizing is important especially when three Directors feel that everything is a priority! Thankfully, I give deadlines for when documents need to be returned to me. Everything is tracked in a spreadsheet with colorful conditions making it easier to see the need to follow-up, correct, file, resend, date completes, even the duration of time documents were sent to the office to when they leave for the next destination.
    I have tried to use the Priority A, B, or C but it has not worked for me – yet. I use the hierarchy of my office to determine which tasks to give priority.

  52. I have been in the support role for 10 years now, and I still feel like no two days are the same. While I would love to have my day go according to my plan but it never happens. There are conflicting priorities that I must sift through and work on important ones as the day progresses. But, I do follow your A, B and C approach to prioritize what needs to taken care of first 🙂

    Nice article!!
    Sudipa

  53. Reading this post before opening my email that will no doubt be filled with requests from my multiple leaders and their teams made my morning feel so less daunting and allowed me to sip my coffee, take a breath, and get a more focused and confident start to my workday. I will also take this practice into my personal life because thriving personally helps you thrive in your career.

    As always a great post.

  54. I had never thought of doing a coding system before. That is a tactic I look forward in implementing this year. Great read!
    -Gio

  55. We all have ways of getting the job done. Realizing there is no one right way, helps each personality type get the job done. Seeing things and writing them down, make them real and checking that completed box leaves you feeling accomplished for the day.

  56. I’ve been using the ABC method in my day planner for years. Still one of the best tools in my aresenal.

  57. Andrea Heacock-Reyes

    I like the idea of organizing all of my to-dos into a Master List that I can then categorize by importance/due date. I am also wanting to implement the weekly status update to let my executives know where I am in completing their items. This not only helps me to organize my projects but allows them to know where in the process I am in completing them.

  58. I like the idea of the Top 5 priorities. I would love to figure out how to stop those from changing mid-day!

  59. Great article. I have started using OneNote for tracking my projects and tasks. I keep a page for weekly, monthly, quarterly, projects, and training. I link all other pages to my weekly tasks list. I use a Red, Yellow, Green system for highlighting the most important tasks for the day, those needed this week, and longer-term tasks. It has really worked nicely for feeling like I am in control of my day while keeping other tasks on my mind so I do not drop the ball on anything.

  60. Great article. I have started using OneNote for tracking my projects and tasks. I keep a page for weekly, monthly, quarterly, projects, and training. I link all other pages to my weekly tasks list. I use a Red, Yellow, Green system for highlighting the most important tasks for the day, those needed this week, and longer-term tasks. It has really worked nicely for feeling like I am in control of my day while keeping other tasks on my mind so I do not drop the ball on anything.

  61. Great information – especially having a master list and prioritizing those items on your list (A, B and C).

  62. Great Article! I make lists but sometimes as adding I don’t take the time to prioritize! This is a good reminder!

  63. You definitely need to ask for deadlines, otherwise everything is due now. I know our executives get busy and they don’t think about how soon they want something unless its really critical, and I know they like to know I follow up with confirming a deadline date and time. This has some useful tips and good reminders to keep me on track. I use Tasks in Outlook for a lot of deadlines, has all the information there from the email request to reference if needed. I need to get better at using the computer to keep my to-do list, when I get requests verbally or through IM. It’s hard to give up the paper notes.

  64. I set up a Trello board which allows me to work through all of my master list items and daily tasks. This also allows me to track all of my tasks, especially the critical ones for reference at year end reviews.

  65. Michelle Holthaus

    I love to have a master list. So when I do get that rare time of breathing space I can tackle those nice to do tasks

  66. I always ask for a deadline as she wants everything yesterday. I’m trying to retrain that not every single item is an emergency. Don’t get me wrong. I am very ‘Gumby.’ But we need to work smarter; not harder. Our hair can’t be on fire every.single.day. 😉

  67. Some of the ways I’ve tried to prioritize have been too detailed while others have been too broad. This approach seems like it hits the sweet spot. Thanks for sharing your system!

  68. My practice has always been to create a To Do list for the next day that I review each new day and re-prioritize as needed and as new things come up. If I can even mark through just one or two things a day, it helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something and makes it easier to tackle. It’s all about the baby steps.

  69. Kelly Olsakovsky

    I directly support two C-level executives at a busy nonprofit and have learned the value of asking specific questions about when projects need to be done and asking leading questions to make sure I’ve gotten the full scope of what they want to see. I’m a very tactile person and so much better when I just use a pen and paper to track tasks. Bullet journaling has been a lifesaver for me.

    I also communicate regularly with my executives – as soon as I foresee a conflict or anticipate something that might conflict, I bring it up and talk about it. Setting boundaries is part of my responsibility too.

  70. I am new to the “assistant” world after currently changing careers. It is one thing to keep track of everything you have to do and prioritizing, but totally another thing when you have to keep track of what some else has to do too! Sometimes it can be super challenging to really know what the most urgent priorities are. After reading this, the major takeaway for me is thinking about the question, “what are the consequences”? Implementing this way of thinking to help categorize a task would allow both me and my exec to be more purposeful in assigning our tasks to the different “ranks” with intent.
    I’m looking forward to discussing this with her and implementing it to continue evolving and growing in how we work together!

  71. This is similar to the Eisenhower matrix that we use at work, but I like this much better and will start implementing. I really like the comment by Velma, using Excel & filtering.

  72. I’m glad you mentioned the prioritizing tip of “Make deadlines public information.” This is very key for me with shifting daily priorities. I make sure to communicate to my manager what my current priorities are and then ask him to help reorder my priority list if he should have new incoming requests. Once he makes that clear, I also make sure to repeat back to him it in my own words for the abundance of clarity.

  73. I serve 4 leaders that all have competing priorities and deadlines due at the same time – It makes individual prioritizing difficult in some cases but I’ve learned to “batch” prioritize some items that all four need ahead of other tasks. I’ve created a OneNote task list to track what needs to be completed urgently – compared to longer-term projects. This helps to ensure those non-urgent projects don’t fall off the radar.

  74. I now have 3 executives to work with and I like the idea of setting up the categories and rankings. It should make working through my to do list a lot easier.

  75. The most challenging thing for me is to get out of the mindset that I will have everything on my to do list checked off each day. Learning to pause and think strategically about urgency and due dates (vs. checking off tasks) and being flexible throughout the day to readjust as necessary.

  76. I tend to take care of a few smaller “B” or “C” priorities first thing, while the coffee is kicking in. Then I feel more awake and focused to take on the “A” priority. (Confessions of a non-morning person!)

  77. I like the breakdown of categories and ranking so it will help me with figuring out how to approach my day, especially if I have conflicts with multiple managers pulling me in a multitude of directions. Thanks Office Dynamics!

  78. I use a similar approach – though things change every minute and I don’t always have time to go back adjust my list. We really need to focus on making sure our 1:1’s (huddles) aren’t skipped, these can make a HUGE difference. I would also like to meet more than once weekly with my CEO.

  79. I love this ranking idea! Such an easy and applicable way to rank tasks. I would definitely add due dates for B and C’s just in case because things always come up and soon B’s and C’s can easily become A’s if they aren’t paid close attention to.

  80. I like the idea of categorizing and ranking the to do list. Velma’s idea is great as well – with using Excel and setting filters. Plus having all the information in one place is very valuable.

  81. I specifically appreciate the suggestion to “get to know” your boss. My boss has had her role for slightly over a year and a half. I have supported her this entire time. However, I am really just now beginning to feel like we are “syncing” – there are times that I can foresee what she wants before she assigns me a task.

    I also appreciate Velma’s comment about putting this into a spreadsheet. Using filters, you can see what is in one level of priority without becoming overwhelmed with other, lower priority tasks.

  82. I found this to be extremely helpful! I have a similar “To Do” version of this that I created. I just need to tweak it a bit so that it’s more specific on paper.

  83. Understanding your manager(s)’ priorities is the first step in determining your priorities. And, as mentioned, they can change as the day progresses.

  84. Rhonda M Strong

    Always do urgent tasks first is a great rule. When there are conflicting priorities, it makes sense to let your executive determine the most important if both have been assigned by him/her. Great article!

  85. It seems that prioritizing your day helps you stay organized throughout the days of the work week. Making a list of the things that are more important prevents procrastination, and interruptions that can wait a couple days, than making a rash decision to ‘get everything done’ that you may otherwise not have enough time to finish. Writing down your day helps keep track of where you lose time in your day, and helps you better track what actually could happen. As an assistant, it’s better to create and craft your day, than ‘see what happens’ because you want to control your day not lose it.

  86. This article contains a lot of great information. Always do the work first for the person who gives your performance evaluation.

  87. My top two takeaways are huddle/action-item meetings and ranking tasks. The weekly huddles help keep both my executive and me on task. Ranking gets tasks done in relative order of priority.

  88. I have a bad habit of trying to work faster to get everything done. Shifting my perspective and asking for due dates is something I can implement right away, and the three tiered to-do list looks like a great tool for doing that!

  89. This article is a great reminder to get back to the basics of prioritizing. I have a challenge with my executive where he gives me projects to complete and then he never looks at the completed project. Just because he thinks he needs something NOW doesn’t mean it’s lucrative of my time or a real priority that will help us reach our sales goals. SO FRUSTRATING! I will need to work with him and be sure to ask, “Is this necessary? And how is this going to get us to XX Goal?”

  90. Since my current position requires me to support multiple managers, I will certainly use the prioritizing tips and rank tasks to help me get through multiple priorities. This is extremely helpful when you have a mico-manager.

  91. I believe Joan talked about this system in a webinar I attended a while ago. It works quite well in helping me organize my day. It gives me peace of mind knowing things aren’t just hanging out there. Instead they are well organized and in one spot where I can reference them and update as needed.

  92. Prioritization is really important. It helps you to remain flexible and address the most pressing concerns first. I’ve really been able to be more effective when I ask for specific deadline & I just talk with people if they all say they need something right away. I use my judgement and determine which tasks take more of a priority, and typically give a very high value to the C-Suite executives since they determine my performance reviews.

  93. I like the A,B C idea. I will try this on an Excel spreadsheet with filters like Velma mentions. This way I can easily move things around as priorities change and be able to look at what has already been done (if I want to).

  94. This is great advice, I use tracking sheets to show progress on large projects but not for my day to day to do list, which is lengthy. I plan to use the ranking of priorities, this is great advice! I just have it labelled ASAP, sooner is better and when time permits. The A, B, C with ranking seems much more accurate. Thanks!

  95. I think that setting priorities and then monitoring them can keep you on track and accountable for your time each day. It will give you an honest depiction on areas for improvement.

  96. I’ve only been an admin assistant for about 1yr. Learning everything from scratch and virtually was a challenge. I blessed to have such a supportive team to back me up, and help me when needed. Since I am a very organize person, prioritizing is easy for me to balance my work load. I use a spreadsheet with every item my exec signs, and note when it’s due and completed dates. Reviewing this blog and watching the video gave me some additional suggestions I will use. One being to use a numbering system. This will help my team know the status of their request in real time. I will give the team view only access to my spreadsheet, and they will be able to see my comments, status, and completion dates on our SharePoint drive.

  97. Tannesia Rolley

    I’ve only been an admin assistant for about 1yr. Learning everything from scratch and virtually was a challenge. I blessed to have such a supportive team to back me up, and help me when needed. Since I am a very organize person, prioritizing is easy for me to balance my work load. I use a spreadsheet with every item my exec signs, and note when it’s due and completed dates. Reviewing this blog and watching the video gave me some additional suggestions I will use. One being to use a numbering system. This will help my team know the status of their request in real time. I will give the team view only access to my spreadsheet, and they will be able to see my comments, status, and completion dates on our SharePoint drive.

  98. Very useful tips and reminders to keep on track. I use a priority quadrant listing my Executive’s top projects and meetings, I review this bi-weekly to match with strategic priorities and short-term changes.
    For myself I have moved from a paper list to a digital to-do list using MS To Do, I can easily sort my tasks here, and connect them to my calendar, OneNote and smartphone. It took some time to get used to a digital list vs. paper, but it is more flexible adapting to changes and priorities, and easier in lockdown when I have limited access to printers and other office resources

  99. “Ask for specific deadlines – not simply “ASAP.” I tend not to ask this question (trying to please all) and end up putting unnecessary pressure on myself to meet set deadlines.

  100. Great article addressing a very real issue. Confirmed some of my approach and added new & meaningful insights to use. will continue to build on communication, delegation and trusting my instincts to tackle daily conflicts

  101. I’m going to try this in an excel spreadsheet, set up with filters. That way I can look at my A1’s without seeing the rest and tackle them. I’m putting in a “Date Completed” column as well. I can filter them so I don’t see them once they are completed. And if I need to look back at what I’ve done all the information is there!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Sign Up For Our
Free Webinars

Sign Up For Our
Free Webinars

Join thousands of administrative professionals who are already viewing our FREE monthly webinars! 

By filling out this form and clicking submit, I agree to receive emails from Office Dynamics International. 100% Privacy Guaranteed. 

Free Webinar

The Artful Orchestration of Your Career

April 21, 2021 | 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. PT